You never realize how much you use your jaw throughout the day—yawning, eating, talking—until simple movements in the joint cause you pain. Then, it’s all you can think about.
You may be experiencing TMJ disorder, the most common cause of facial pain. The fastest way to manage and eliminate that pain is to first know what it is, why you have it and how you can treat it.
What is TMJ disorder?
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder refers to a spectrum of problems associated with the joint that connects your lower jaw to the temporal bone on each side of your face. TMJ disorder impacts the flexibility of these joints that normally allow for seamless up-and-down movement, causing pain in the jaw and the muscles around it.
What are the symptoms?
The number one symptom of TMJ disorder is pain and tenderness in the area: your jaw and face, as well as in and around your ear. You may have difficulty chewing and even experience locking, clicking or grating in the joint. Some patients also have headaches, dizziness and hearing problems as a result of TMJ disorder.
What causes TMJ disorders?
While the exact cause is often difficult to pinpoint, triggers of TMJ can include one or a combination of the following:
- Erosion or displacement of the joint’s shock-absorbing disk
- Arthritis damage to the cartilage
- Sudden impact or heavy blow to the jaw
- Misaligned teeth
- Poor posture
- Stress, which leads to grinding and/or clenching
- Chewing gum
- Chewing irregularly (only on one side of your mouth)
How can I treat it?
A physiotherapist can create a treatment plan for your TMJ disorder, which will focus on relaxing and stretching the muscles around your joint, as well as minimizing any scar tissue that may have formed. It all depends on the severity and causes of your TMJ disorder, but surgery is often not needed. In the cases where it is required, physiotherapy is also beneficial after surgery.
Your physiotherapy treatment plan may include the following to improve strength, flexibility and range of motion, as well as decrease your pain and swelling:
- Jaw exercises
- Heat/ice therapy
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Ultrasound therapy
Want more information about TMJ disorder? Connect with one of our pt Health physiotherapists.